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A GENEROUS LIFE - Begins Tomorrow!

This Sunday will begin the next incredible month at Crossroads! I'm so pumped that we have the opportunity to kick this series off by hearing from Casey Graham, President of ReThink Money. Be sure to be at Crossroads Sunday.

Casey will be back the end of February to lead the half-day seminar on ReThink Money!

The Deacon Brandon Reeves LIVE in NORTH PAULDING!

Brandon has become well known in Marietta and Kennesaw for his incredible blues. The people of the Cedarcrest area from Shelton Elementary and McClure Middle to neighborhoods, like Seven Hills and Bentwater, know his acoustical talents from the holiday season. At Crossroads, we know him for his awesome worship talents.

Come out enjoy an evening at Crossroads Cafe and hear Brandon live sharing his gifted talents of blending his blues and faith. Mark your calendar for January 30th and be there!

Hear Brandon's Blues at The Deacon Brandon Reeves Site. Hear some of his worship songs at Brandon Reeves on Myspace.

Lessons of Pain

I've been moving some sites off my blog lists and adding new ones. One of those blogs I’ve added to my reading list is Phil Cooke’s The Change Revolution. In a recent post, Phil asked the question, “Are You Still Carrying Wasted Pain,” he shared:
A former prisoner of war was asked if he harbored resentment for all the years he spent being tortured in a foreign prison. Although the experience had been devastating, he said he had no time for “wasted pain.”

Bingo. Love it but hate it. Wasted pain is exactly what to call it. It certainly isn’t godly regret. Wasted pain doesn’t learn from what happens. Wasted pain anchors us in the past and ultimately wastes our lives.

Having spent some time in my life (and recent months) dealing with pain, I have a good sense of what this means. Knowing many friends and family who have felt pain recently has hit home too. But I think there are two sides to pain and we have the opportunity to experience Useful Pain.

1. Useful pain becomes a teacher and counselor.

2. Useful pain takes moments and tragedies as well as anger and frustrations, and helps us take note of who we were, what we’ve come through and who we are as a result.

3. Useful pain moves us forward.

4. Useful pain creates a "force-sensitivity" to guard your steps.

5. Useful pain reminds us that pain is temporary. Growth is painful.

6. Useful pain brings home the reality that we're still alive and kicking.

Don't waste pain. Use it.

May I Ask? How have you experienced pain recently?
May I Suggest? Make a list of 5 things you've learned from pain.

Authentic Faith for Dummies: Recognition of the Condition

Today ended our series on Authentic Faith and it has been awesome! It has been incredible watching Crossroads growing every week and meeting new kids and families. I love doing children's sermons - if anything keeps me on my toes, kids will do it HANDS DOWN!

James 5:13-20 ESV Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14) Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15) And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16) Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17) Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18) Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. 19) My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20) let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

At a local track and field competition in Seattle, nine young athletes, stood on the start line for the 100 m race. The gun fired and the race began. While everyone’s skills were different, everyone wanted to win.
But right off the line one boy tripped and fell, did a few somersaults and started crying. The other eight heard him crying. They slowed down and looked behind them. They stopped and came back. All of them.

A girl sat down next to him, hugged him and asked, “Feeling better now?”
Then, all nine walked shoulder to shoulder to the finish line. The whole crowd gave them a standing ovation and the applause lasted a very long time.
People who witnessed this still talk about it.

These athletes involved in Special Olympics recognized their condition and it didn’t have anything to do with having a mental or physical challenge. They recognized in their neighbor themselves. That could have been you. That could have been me.

Had that race been a traditional track meeting, there would have been jeering and laughing at the athlete. On Super Bowl Sunday, we’ll see the hits and passes, the small victories and huge mistakes and on Monday morning no one well own up to recognition of the condition: for good or bad – those athletes got out and played.

To end his book on Authentic Faith for Dummies, James ends not with goodbyes or warm fuzzies but with the practical – what authentic faith ALWAYS focuses on – living out belief. Authentic faith stretches out onto Jesus because we come to a recognition of our condition. Authentic faith is simple faith but not simplistic. And it always comes back to a recognition of our condition – we are not on our own.

Verse 13 recognizes our need for help and at the same time our need to praise God in the good times because we need to be thankful. Verse 14 calls on us to get support from the church to pray. Why? Because in our condition, we need others.

Verse 15 talks about the prayer of faith. What does the prayer of faith do? It brings healing – not just in our body but starting with our very soul. It also moves us to face the condition not just of our body but our soul. And verse 16 takes it that step beyond - we need to confess our failures and shortcomings – the Bible calls those sin. James uses the example of Elijah the prophet in verse 17 to show us that those perfect people in the Bible – are just like us. It is Elijah’s prayer that reminds us that there is power greater than our own – in our condition we need more than what we’ve got.

Verse 19 and 20 bring us to the end and to the truth of our condition – there is truth and without God’s grace and the support of friends and neighbors, we are not going to stay on the path. Without friends and neighbors, many will never even find the starting line let alone the stadium to get in the race! In our condition we need to be connected to God.

A church is that place where friends and neighbors gather to connect, follow and become disciples of Jesus Christ one loving act at a time. Authentic faith is willing to stretch out on God and others. An authentic faith is willing to own up to our need and the needs of others. Authentic faith guides one into a generous life – recognizing the needs of others as what we all may face.

Back in December, Vicki Hogan reached out to a neighbor living here in our Crossroads/Cedarcrest community. She and her husband were in need and through these last few weeks, Crossroads UMC and Crossroads CafĂ© have been helping them. On Wednesday, they had to move out so they could get to Florida. Brandon, Rob Lester, Chris Heywood and Geof Hutton and I were able to help. None of us are in their situation – but then they never expected to be there either.

With the recognition of our condition, we come to realize how much one loving act a time, makes a difference. One prayer, one praise, one thank you, one hand reaching out not only keeps us from wandering from the truth, but keeps us moving towards the one who is the truth – Jesus Christ.

And just what is our condition? The Bible’s words make it clear that:23) everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence. 24) But by the free gift of God's grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free. (Romans 3:23-24 GNB)

It was Jesus himself who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to Father except by me.” His words aren’t about excluding anyone – they are the most inclusive ever! In such simple words, Jesus expressed the world, to you and me, the recognition of our condition – we need to be connected to Jesus. And in James’ simple words, he is telling us the most practical way to follow Jesus, to live with Authentic Faith, is to be in connection with church.

Authentic faith isn’t neat and clean – it is a messy thing that leaves us with questions. Questions like, have I recognized my condition in God’s eyes? Just how are we praying? Who are we praying for? Are we giving thanks and ultimately WHO has fallen down and is crying? Who needs help on the path? How is it that I can help?

Check here for the podcast.

Praying Through Economic Difficulties and Changes

Probably the hardest thing right now with our economy for me, is hearing the struggles of my friends and network. I'm thankfully through my networks to help some people find work but not all. In our short time, Crossroads UMC has been able to help some families as well. That doesn't make it any easier.

I've learned in the last few months that finding the right words to pray can be difficult. Sometimes we need the help of others too. My faith has been impacted greatly by praying written prayers recently. I hope these might guide your prayers and so impact you and the world around you.

For those searching for work:

Father, I turn to You seeking Your divine help and guidance as I look for suitable employment. I want to use the gifts and talents You have given me. I'm ready for the opportunity to use them with gainful employment. Thank You for the resources to meet my daily expenses at home as well as the expenses incurred with job seeking. Grant peace on my home in these times when things are so uncertain. I pray for the confidence to grow out of my comfort zone with future interviews and prospects. I give thanks in advance for opening possibilities. In all things, may you give me strength as I try to live by faith. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

A prayer for those who are unemployed:

Heavenly Father, we remember before you those who suffer
want and anxiety from lack of work. Guide the people of this
land so to use our public and private wealth that all may find
suitable and fulfilling employment, and receive just payment
for their labor; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From The Book of Common Prayer

I also add this prayer For Sound Government as our nation marks the change of administration:

O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we
may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to
other nations of the earth.
Lord, keep this nation under your care.

To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors
of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative
authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our
laws in States, Cities, and Towns, give courage, wisdom, and
foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to
fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding
and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and
justice served.
Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to
accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they
may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for
the well being of our society; that we may serve you
faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.
For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as
head above all. Amen.

From The Book of Common Prayer

Authentic Faith: Cracked Pots

James 3:13-18 ESV Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14) But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15) This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16) For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17) But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18) And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Centuries ago, a Water Bearer had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole, which he carried across his neck.

One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years, this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots of water to his house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, for which it was made and often spoke about his perfection. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After 2 years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. "I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes my water to leak out all the way back to your house. Why do you keep me around?"

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, we would not have such beauty."

The Greeks tended to see knowledge and wisdom as a concept that is more brainy and theoretical. It is a wisdom that tends to be proud and boastful. But the Hebrew understanding of wisdom is of practical wisdom.

We see the wisdom of the Greeks in pride of the so called perfect pot. But is instead, the broken pot who humbly speaks to the water bearer only to discover, how much more has been added to the world because of its’ brokenness. To be wise is an activity which leads us to brokenness and to be more like Jesus Christ.

In the Old Testament book of Proverbs, we are encouraged to seek after wisdom (Pr 3:13-18). In the New Testament we are encouraged to walk with wisdom (Ephesians 5:15-17). But in James, we are told to show wisdom.

It isn’t hard to find the earthly wisdom (14,16). That is on display regularly in the media. The qualities which it encourages include power, position, privilege and prestige. It was this type of wisdom that prompted Satan to first rebel against God. It is this kind of wisdom that inspired men to try to build a tower up to heaven. And it was this kind of wisdom that exists even in the church when followers and disciples argue over who would be greatest in God’s kingdom.

But that isn’t the wisdom from above. So, I think I need to confess something. Sometimes I have hard time praying. Really. And the last few months may have been the most difficult time for me. It was hard to admit that but I know that right now, I need to be humbled, because Crossroads is not about me, it is about God getting the attention through a church. So I’ve gone to praying written prayers, prayers that godly men and women have written down.

Why do I say this? Because it is one of the practices of followers of Jesus to confess. Sometimes, in silence and confidence and other times openly. But it is also needs to be clear: MEEKNESS is NOT synonymous with WEAKNESS. May I ask you this: Is it easier to retaliate or control your anger? Is it easier to yell or be silent?

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

Jesus told us “…each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush…out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:44-45 ESV)

This week I ran across an interview on YouTube regarding Mother Teresa. At the same time, I found a video entitled “Hell’s Angel” by Christopher Hitchens. As I think about the two, and contrast them, I can’t help but consider wisdom. The words of Hitchens were arrogant and cocky and left me bitter. The words of Mother Teresa, those stopped me in my tracks. They were thoughtful, inspired and humble.

"The Fruit of prayer is deeper faith,
Fruit of faith is love,
Fruit of love is service,
Fruit of service is peace.
We give our hands to serve and our hearts to love.
That is the beginning of holiness."

In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul said, “Christ lives only by the power of God, and similarly believers have no wisdom of their own, but are wise only as they become [crack pots] fools and look to Christ alone for their power and wisdom. God calls fools to himself, and in so doing he confounds the wise.” (1 Cor. 1:21-25)

Authentic faith and the wisdom from above is found in cracked pots. And it is the cracked pots of the world God desires to use because he knows we cannot hold onto his grace and gifts – they come out of us. We understand perfect to be “without flaw” when perfection in God’s eyes is to be “with cracks.”

Here at the table, you are invited to be cracked; to own up to your need for God, a relationship with Jesus Christ and be filled that you might spill out into the world.

Haiku Humor

Guys, Check Your Nuts!

True Story:

John Kruk is a former professional baseball player and Testicular cancer survivor:

"Because he was still undergoing treatment and was admittedly very tired, the Phillies did not want him to play until completely recovered. Kruk, a fierce competitor complemented by one of the best public senses of humor, was outwardly critical of the Phillies position. The day before the home opener he was seen taking batting practice wearing a t-shirt that read:
[Front] If you don't let me play...
[Back] I'm going to take my ball and go home."

This is year 9 that I have been cancer free. For my story, you can click Facing Testicular Cancer.pdf (at least I think you can, my current firewall says this is "pornographic" - HA! So be warned - testicular cancer is porno!)

Isn't that ironic. Today both breast cancer (bet my firewall won't block that) and prostate cancer have become common to speak about. Yet, when I mention testicular cancer, people still stumble all over themselves.

One of my hopes has been to share my story and to get guys talking about the need to do Testicular Self Examinations monthly. Even if you're not a guy, if there is a guy in your life that you love - then I ask you pass this info to them.

Testicular cancer does kill and it doesn't care the age or race of the man. It does it silently BUT caught early (usually in a self-exam), it is one of the easiest cancers to treat.


Authentic Faith: The Essentials

Just what is essential? It certainly depends on what you’re talking about but the consequences for not having the essentials in any given situation can range from humorous to deadly. What is essential for sky diving aren’t the same essentials for knitting.

One of the things I enjoy most is the outdoors. Heather and I once did a hike that was supposed to be two miles that turned into 5. Thankfully, we had enough to survive only because as I say, “Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.” The squirrel being me. Since then, I always carry what are call the 10 Essentials, whether the hike is ½ a mile, hunting or a 30 mile backpacking trip.

I was reading that states like New Hampshire and Colorado are now placing fines or revoking driver's liscenses of hikers who go unprepared into the backcountry. At the end of December to guys hiked up to a cabin planning to light the woodstove…only to discover they didn’t pack any matches! But they did have a cell phone.

A recent Zogby poll determined that the future of the U.S. is growing spirituality. The poll suggested that for more people, “the test is how fulfilled we are spiritually. Their quest isn't for bigger houses and more cars; it's an inner search, a quest for spiritual meaning."

For many, it seems like religion is a buffet and the tendency becomes to simply grasp at pieces of religion and spirituality that tend to fit. But treating religions that way is like shooting in the dark. ALL religions have essentials. What is often not realized is the need of the essentials. Contrary to many, Christianity is not = to Spirituality. There are essentials. 1 Corinthians 13:13 tells us Faith is as much an essential element in the Christian life as a pocket knife is in the outdoors.

Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God and in Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church he says faith is necessary to salvation (Ephesians 2:8). And as a person lives life following Jesus Christ, it is a life that must be lived by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).

In James’ version of “Authentic Faith for Dummies,” he writes,
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16) and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17) So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18) But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19) You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe--and shudder! 20) Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22) You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23) and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"--and he was called a friend of God. 24) You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25) And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26) For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (James 2:15-26 ESV)

James points out two types of counterfeit faiths, faiths which aren’t anything like what Jesus lived and taught.
One is a dead faith in verses 14-17. It is a faith focused on pontificating religious words and doctrine. It is a faith that loves to quote Bible verses or talk about all their church does but the life doesn’t match all the talk.

The second counterfeit faith is one that is identified with demons. Now, if that doesn’t concern you I don’t know what would! This faith recognize the truth and connects it to the emotions. For demons, it is a terror of the truth, but for the almost Christian, it often leaves us just feeling good about ourselves and the day. But how does it make us different?

Instead, the Authentic and Tenacious faith of Jesus’ followers is connected to our mind, our emotions and our actions. It is a dynamic faith that draws people to Jesus one loving act at a time. An authentic faith makes us whole people because it connects our intellect and emotions with what is often forgotten in religion: our head and heart leading to our hands and thus our actions.

For examples, James picks two characters who, honestly, are really less than stellar examples. Abraham, though the Father of the Jewish faith, was selfish and a liar and Rahab was a prostitute. Yet both got credit for faith. Why? Their actions.

James says that it is up to us to act on what we’ve learned and felt for faith to grow. Like all things, if faith isn’t growing and becoming authentic and tenacious, then it is dying. Will you trust Jesus with your life and let your faith grow? Are you ready to stop sampling from the buffet and live following after Jesus’ example? "Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV)"

As long as you and I act on the example of faith, then faith is indeed alive: in you, in Crossroads and in our community.

Click here for the mp3 of the sermon. Please note, my posted sermon is a draft. I never preach from a manuscript so these will differ at points.

9 Words That Can Shape Faith

Two boys stood at the edge of a frozen pond. One of them said to the other, "Billy, I believe it will bear our weight." "Do you?" asked the other. "Yes." "Then get on it." "No," said he, "I don't want to." "Then," said the other, "you don't believe it will bear you."

I am sure other church planters have heard comments about having great faith to start a church. I can't speak for others, but I wouldn't call my faith great, I'd call the One who I put my faith IN great. I've already been on the ice enough times, sometimes by choice, other times, I've been thrown out there by life. Certain words keep coming to mind that have shaped my faith in God. Words that again and again, seem to always keep me moving farther out on the ice...

1. Transparent.

Why do we use transparent tape? So the tape doesn't get in the way. Often following Jesus Christ gets confused with "spirituality." It isn't. Jim Wallis has often said, "Faith is personal but it isn't private." Jesus didn't spend all day in Bible Studies, he lived life and taught from what he experienced and confronted each day. People could see God through his life. Can people see Jesus in yours?

2. Obedience.

When I was struggling with the call to ordination, a friend said to me, "it isn't faith if you know the outcome." One of the biggest reasons people don't grow in their faith is they choose not to obey. Faith is lived out in obedience.

3. Tenacious.

I found this word recently in James' letter to the 12 tribes (James 1:1). Tenacious is a great word! It is a stick-to-it-iveness that goes beyond what is most often seen in lives. Who do you know who really sticks with it? Let me ask ya, do you want a patient faith or a tenacious faith?

4. Integrity.

Let your yes be yes and your no be no. (Matthew 5:37) When you tell the truth, you never have to remember everything you've said.

5. Sacred.

Honor what God has set aside as important. You don't know all that God knows and neither do I.

6. Tradition.

Honor what holy people have said as important. Those have gone before are like coaches. Tom Landry, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh, and Jimmy Johnson accounted for 11 of the 19 Super Bowl victories from 1974 to 1993. They also share the distinction of having the worst records of first-season head coaches in NFL history - they didn't win a single game. Based on experience, who would you listen to on the field? (Information on Self-Efficacy)

7. Sabbath.

Growing in faith isn't about just getting in touch with oneself. It is about spending time with God.

8. Spontaneous.

God is unpredictable so why do we feel we have to be so predictable?

9. Generous.

When I was 16 I was convinced that 50 cents a day could help a child. As a teenager, I adopted a child through Compassion International. When Eduardo wrote to me as his "parent" I didn't know how meaningful that was. When I had kids - then I knew. That and other experiences have taught me how that if you want to really change the world, be generous, not powerful.

May I Ask? What words have shaped your faith? How have you acted on them?
May I Suggest?
Pick a word and focus on it for a week. Learn about it and live out what you learn. Step on the ice!

14 Reasons Why (I Think) We’ve Made It 14 Years.

I’m sure Heather’s list would be different but here is my take:

1. Faith.
Front and center and period. Heather and I share the same devotion for Jesus Christ and know that we are who we are because of what Jesus Christ has done in our lives. We differ in some of our beliefs and convictions but we’re also two very different people.

2. Myers-Briggs and Personality Inventories.
Laugh it off if you want but all those inventories helped me learn about myself first. I didn’t plan it that way, it just happened that along the way, I came to know myself enough to realize, all change starts within me and I can live with that.

3. Prepare-Enrich.
One of the best inventories for two people to get all their stuff on the table. It can be done before or after marriage at anytime and is worth every dime and all the time you put into it.

4. Wait.
Call me old fashion – don’t care. No living together and no premarital sex made certain we knew each other first before we knew other in the Biblical sense.

5. Don’t Wait.
I know my wife disagrees on this one but figure out when the earliest time is that you can get married and plan for that day. Dude, we got married in January…in an ice storm.

6. Read The Right Books.

First, His Needs, Her Needs by William Harley. Second, The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. Those two books, read through and talked about as a couple will go a looooooong way to building a solid relationship.

7. Turn Off The Screen.
I got in a habit early on and have stuck to it. When your spouse wants to talk, turn off the TV or monitor. Take your hands off the keyboard, remote or control pad.

8. Use the Phone.
Okay, I had to learn this the hard way but once I did I’ve never forgotten. I’ve got a 10pm curfew. At 10pm, Heather is worrying why I’m not home. Don’t let your spouse wonder. If I know I’m going to be running late, I call at 9:30pm.

9. Keep the Sink In the Kitchen.
Deal with the issue in front of you. End of story.

10. Bounce Your Eyes. (h/t to Everyman’s Battle)
Guys, sorry but only one woman gets your attention now. Ladies, same thing. Whether it is internet or coffee shop or gym, don’t undermine the trust and foundation you’ve built. If you want to make it to 14 and beyond you’ll have to fight for it.

11. Keep Dating.
We started out in grad school with no money. Fourteen years later we still have no money. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop dating. Cards, notes, gifts, acts of service, whatever got your spouses’ attention, keep doing it and more.

12. Lose the Me-ness.
It ain’t about you anymore. It is us. It is we. Before there are kids, you gave birth to a relationship.

13. The Bling.
Get it under control. Got Debt? Get a plan. No Budget? Make one. I’m not a money manager but outside of mortgage, we’ve been debt free for most of our marriage. Crossroads UMC is sponsoring ReThink Money next month and it will get you started on the way.

14. Love Is A Verb NOT A Fuzzy.
I have never fallen out of love with Heather, period. I’ve never woken up in the morning and not been in love with Heather, period. I made a decision based on my feelings, my experience and a hunch, that if I didn’t screw this up, our marriage would last a lifetime. Fourteen years and I’m still madly in love and choosing to love.

Heather, thank you for your willingness to get a cup of coffee and go see “Cool Runnings” with me on that cold January night. And thanks for being just crazy enough to say “yes” when I asked you to be my wife. I LOVE YOU!

Cedarcrest Info Website

Click for the Cedarcrest Info Homepage.

Not up to speed on all info and events in Cedarcrest area? Here is your link to it all then! Tell your friends and get the word out.

A Slightly Caffeinated Conversation with J.R. Lee

This fall, I sat down with J.R. Lee, lead pastor of Freedom Church. This month, the church is celebrating their first year and J.R. has been providing leadership since the beginning. J.R. and his wife have two kids and one on the way. Coming to Acworth is like coming home, as he grew up in nearby Canton.

It was a beautiful blue, slightly blustery day when we hung out at Starbucks, drank a little coffee and caught up on what is happening at our two churches and what God is doing in his life.

Ken: What has been happening at Freedom Church since you began?
J.R.: It’s been a whirlwind of activity! Right now, it is about us increasing our capacity to impact the lives of people. Running several hundred people this quickly is great – but we have a long way to go!

Our goal each week is answering the question, “How can we free up more seats so that people far from God can experience life in Christ?” After looking at a number of options, Freedom moved to Barber Middle School beginning this past Sunday. This move greatly increases our capacity to impact our community. Even though our methods will vary, the vision of “seeing people far from God experience life in Christ” will not change. As a church, we will continue to be who God has called us to be.

Ken: What are some of the hopes you have for our community?
J.R.: The vision of Freedom is very simple; it is for people far from God to experience life in Christ. That’s the reason we are here – to see a revolutionary movement of God. Maybe it happens through Freedom or in conjunction with several other churches. Revolutionary movements of God demand revolutionary sacrifice but guarantee revolutionary rewards! I want to make it hard to go to hell from Acworth, GA!

Ken: What is God doing in your life?
J.R.: I am learning a lot about leadership. God is a God of capacity; therefore, I will do whatever it takes to increase my capacity in order to move forward. I refuse to be the “lid” on what God wants to do in this great community.

Learning to be the person who God called me to be is number one. I will not be content with where I am in the area of leadership, partnership or integrity – because it really impacts everyone in the community. I want to consistently move forward!

Originally published in Around Town Acworth, January 2009.

Authentic Faith For Dummies: It Starts Somewhere

Have you ever been made to feel stupid? You know, a dummy? Maybe it was intentional or maybe not but it happens to all of us. It might have been in a class or at work. It may have been on a date or with a friend. I’m certain it was not from anything like these folks who certainly must have felt a little dumb:

The thing I like about the “For Dummies” books is that they try to deal with the problem at hand. I’ve learned about computers and freeware, about car buying and house buying and they’ve all served me well. James is the “Authentic Faith for Dummies” book of the Bible.

See James 1:1-12

Faith has been lost in religion, government, science and relationships and with good reason. Scandals in the church, lying under oath, Space shuttle disasters and the collapse of marriages have all caused us to question and lose faith in these things. No one wants to lose faith in God and it is one of the reasons at the heart of why people still seek out a local church…to find faith.

I heard it said that, “One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.” For faith to be authentic, it has to be yours and it can only be lived when you cast off from shore.

John G. Paton knew what it meant to cast off from shore. He went out as a missionary to the new Hebrides Islands in the south Pacific, he found that the natives among whom he began to work had no way of writing their language. He began to learn it and in time began to work on a translation of the Bible for them. He discovered they had no word for "faith." This was serious, of course, for a person can hardly translate the Bible without it.

One day he went on a hunt with one of the natives. They shot a large deer in the course of the hunt, and tying its legs together and supporting it on a pole, walked back down the mountain path to Paton's home near the seashore. As they reached the deck both men threw the deer down, and the native immediately flopped into one of the deck chairs that stood on the porch exclaiming, "My, it is good to stretch yourself out here and rest." Paton immediately jumped to his feet and recorded the phrase. In his final translation of the New Testament this was the word used to convey the idea of trust, faith, and belief. "Stretch yourself out on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved" (Act_16:31).

That is in fact what authentic faith is, it is when you stretch yourself out on Jesus Christ. You. Not me, not your spouse. Not mom or dad. Not grandma. You.

The question answered here at the very beginning of James is whether or not your faith or my faith is authentic. Just so you know, I’m of the opinion, that some Bible translators don’t get that the Bible was mean for real life. They choose words that don’t really fit. Patience really doesn’t describe what we need from faith. Endurance is a better word but I think another is better. You see, the testing of authentic faith will cause it to become TENACIOUS (Expositor's Bible Commentary). What do you think of when you hear the word TENACIOUS? Bulldog? Pit Bull? Defense? Tenacious D? Do you want just a patient faith or a tenacious one?

Our church consultant said, (betcha didn’t know we had one of those did you?) to a group of us going through church planters boot camp a couple of years ago, that new churches can be a great place for kids to grow in their faith. Why? For the same reason, I think, new churches are a great place for grown ups to grow up in their faith…faith is lived out in obedience. Obedience to God develops a Tenacious faith.

There is no person whose faith, isn’t tested. The idolatrous are tested to see if they (we) will give up their Idol worship for loving their neighbor and so loving God. The poor our tested in their afflictions and not complain. This isn’t a fairness issue, it is a faith issue. Not that you don’t have faith, but is that faith authentic, is it tenacious – can you lay out on Jesus Christ?

How did Jesus put it: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be.” That is what James was talking about between the rich and the poor. Faith and Riches are connected. One has us stretched out on Jesus Christ. The other, well, it could be riches, or it could be an addiction or just good old narccisim. At the end of the day it becomes idolatry and idolatry leaves us, as Kansas once sang, “dust in the wind.”

Jesus faced just this situation in dealing with this father:
Mark 9:19-24 NASB 19) And [Jesus] answered them and said, "O Generation of Dummies! {Ken’s Translation}, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!" 20) They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21) And He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22) "It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!" 23) And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes." 24) Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief."

God doesn’t go out of the way to make testing of faith happen. It happens in real everyday life. A tenacious, authentic faith is available to anyone who asks and is willing to stretch yourself out on Jesus.

I believe that Crossroads UMC is here to be a place where faith can be found and where faith is going to be tested. As I’ve been reflecting on the previous months and years that have gotten us to 2009, it has been a test of my faith. For some of you it has been a testing of your faith and it may still be happening. What I know is that the faith that brought me here isn’t going to be the same faith, that is going to help Crossroads become the church it needs to become. It isn’t the same faith that is going to double our attendance. It isn’t the same faith that is going to help us build Paulding County’s first habitat house. It isn’t the same faith that is going to find the land to build a church that will help our community to connect, follow and become disciples.

What I know is that Authentic Faith lays out on Jesus Christ, not once but over and over again till it becomes a Tenacious Faith.

“You have to learn to go out of convictions, out of creeds, out of experiences, until so far as your faith is concerned, there is nothing between yourself and God”. Oswald Chambers

In 2009, would you lay out on Jesus Christ? The more important question is how will you? Will you start by praying for 10 hours for the month of January? If one person will join me, I will pray for 60 hours. (Thanks to all who made this commitment! Ya'll are awesome!)

What I know is that the same faith that took me through cancer and depression, became tenacious enough to step out and start a church, but I want my faith to stay authentic and tenacious. That is the kind of faith that will allow Crossroads to be the church God desires it to become. It has to start somewhere.

Click here for the mp3 of the sermon.

Listing Into 2009

Everybody is doing their New Year's reflecting pieces today. Okay, big deal. Me, I took Scott Ginsberg's advice from his book, How To Be That Guy, and wrote my list of 101 things to do in 2009. It has been a much better thing to do than just a list of resolutions. Even better is to send it on to your coach and accountability group to let them know how they can challenge you.

But I also received a Twitter from the Internet Monk regarding reflections on the previous year from Ponder Anew. As powerful as looking forward can be, it makes perfect sense to learn from what happened last year and I'm looking forward to making time to look back as well.

If you're wondering about my 101 list, here is a sample of some of what I've written in my list:

2. Read 4 books a month (48 during the year)
15. Go back to Kansas to hunt.
19. Write one page everyday.
30. Develop a more effective marketing plan
46. Get our house repainted
52. Build fence at Murphy-Harpst
65. Fast one day a week
67. pray intently for the people of our community
81. Read at least 4 books about being a better husband
85. List of 12 of the smartest decisions I’ve made about church planting
86. List of 12 of the dumbest decisions I’ve made about church planting
98. Stay off computer at home from 5pm-till kid’s bedtime.
100. Write cards and notes of encouragement to Logan & Jillian every week

May I Ask? What DO you want to get done in 2009?
May I Suggest? Take the time over a week or two and make you're own list.

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